5 Screening Tests for Colon Cancer You Should Know About

It’s estimated that there have already been over 130,000 diagnosed cases of colon cancer in 2017. Colon cancer—or colorectal cancer—is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in in women and the second in men in the United States. Because of its prevalence and high death toll, it’s imperative to know your options when it comes to screening for colon cancer.

Proper screening for colon cancer can detect the early signs of the disease and treat it sooner, or prevent it altogether. You have choices when it comes to your cancer screening. Below we discuss a some of the most common screening tests.


Probably the most widely known test for detecting colon cancer is the colonoscopy. A colonoscopy uses a lighted tube with a small camera on the end to look through the entire length of the colon and rectum. The colon cancer specialist is looking for colon polyps, or small clusters of cells that form on the lining of the colon. Most polyps are harmless; however, some colon polyps can develop into colon cancer. Detected polyps can be removed during the test. To prepare for this test, you may be asked to follow a specified diet for a few days and clean out your colon with an extra-strength laxative.

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

This test is much like the colonoscopy except that it only looks at a portion of the colon and rectum. Any discovered polyps may be removed during the test, or you may need a colonoscopy later. You may need to prepare for this screening test, yet not to the extent of the colonoscopy preparation. A flexible sigmoidoscopy must be done about every 5 years.

Barium Enema

The double-contrast barium enema is a type of x-ray screening test for colon cancer. A liquid called barium is placed into the rectum and spreads through the colon. Then x-rays are taken. If polyps are seen on the test, a colonoscopy may be required.

Virtual Colonoscopy

Also called a CT colonography, this test takes a scan of the colon and rectum that producers detailed images for the doctor to check for polyps. If polyps are found, a follow-up colonoscopy will most likely be needed.

Stool DNA Test

This is a relatively new non-invasive type of screen to test for colon cancer. The test looks for noticeable gene changes that are sometimes found in colon cancer cells. Patients can even take the test at home with an at-home kit, then send off to a lab for tests. It’s important to note that not everyone is eligible for this type of screening test.

Regular screening is one of the most powerful tools in your cancer-prevention arsenal. Speak with a colon cancer specialist about your options for screening. These non-invasive or minimally invasive procedures can help you avoid colon surgery at the later stages of colon cancer and even save your life.